24 November 2008

Trains and Princes

By the end of the 18th century, the once mighty Mataram Mataram Empire that used to rule nearly the whole of Java has been reduced to four small splinter principalities in the interior of Central Java: Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Mangkunagaran and Pakualaman. This area, however, was one of the most fertile areas in Netherlands India, and many plantations were established in the area, producing sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, indigo and other products that were mainly for export. Therefore, when it was decided to build a railway in Netherlands India, the first concession given was for a line connecting the vorstenlanden (principalities, lit: 'princely states') and the port of Semarang on the north coast.

Four Javanese rulers under one roof, from left to right: Mangkunagara VII, Ratu Emas (consort of Pakubuwana X), Hamengkubuwana VIII of Yogyakarta, Pakubuwana X of Surakarta, the Governor of Surakarta, a sister of Hamengkubuwana VIII, Sekar Kedaton (daughter of Pakubuwana X) and Pakualam VII. The distances of the Mangkunagara and the Pakualam from the main group is to emphasis the junior position of the two.

The princes played an important role in the development of the railways. The railway companies were given permission to build their tracks and stations on their territories. Later, the princes would be regular passengers on the Indies trains, and the stations would be scenes of royal departures and official arrivals.

Pakubuwana X and the Governor of Surakarta waiting for Governor-General BC de Jonge to alight from his carriage at Balapan station, Surakarta (Solo), 1931.

Hamengkubuwana VIII, waving black kepi, Mangkunagara VII (second from right) and Pakualam VII (third from right), at Tugu station, Yogyakarta (1939)

Mangkunagara VII (in white uniform) and his consort Ratu Timur at Gambir station, Batavia.

Their favourite train was the Eendagsche Expres (One-Day Express), the luxurious trains that covered the distance between Batavia (Jakarta) and Surabaya (via Yogya and Solo) in 11 hours 30 minutes.

The first Eendagsche Expres leaving Batavia Weltevreden station amid a spectacular display of smoke and steam, 1 December 1929. The train is headed by one of the controversial Pacific engines of the 1000 series built by Werkspoor, Amsterdam. Despite their sleek and speedy lines, the performance of these engines proved rather disappointing.

Interior of the Eendagsche Expres first class carriage.

But Pakubuwana X, who reigned in magnificent, albeit impotent splendour, had his own royal saloon. Another ruler who had his own royal carriage was the Sultan of Deli in East Sumatera. The Sultan even had a halt built directly in front of his palace in Medan to make it easier for him to board and step-off the Deli royal saloon

The saloon of Pakubuwana X, now kept in a pavilion in the Surakarta Kraton (palace). It could run on both Stephenson gauge (1435 mm) and Cape gauge (1067mm) tracks.

Festivities at the Sultan's palace grounds in Medan. In the foreground can be seen the siding and the Sultan's gazebo.

The Mangkunagara was a bit more modest with his 750 mm gauge four-wheeler carriage used to inspect his sugar factory at Tasikmadu.

The Mangkunagara's 750 mm gauge rail coach, Tasikmadu

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